Winnipeg mayor wants to avoid cutting hours of permanent public washroom downtown

Mayor Scott Gillingham says he wants to find a way to avoid cutting hours at a permanent public washroom in downtown Winnipeg.

A city report last week said operating hours at Amoowigamig, which opened on Main Street last year, would have to be scaled back from 10 hours a day to eight hours a day starting May 16.

That update came after more people used the site than expected, the report said, meaning hours would have to be cut to keep it within its $200,000 annual budget.

A new city report slated to go before council’s executive policy committee on March 13 makes a number of recommendations about Winnipeg’s downtown public washrooms — including cutting the city’s temporary washrooms from six down to three, and putting the estimated $20,000 in savings toward services at Amoowigamig.

On Monday, Gillingham told reporters he was open to considering those recommendations, but first wants to discuss them with council’s executive policy committee.

“I ultimately would like us to try to find a way in some manner, whether it’s the city or working through partners, to continue on with the 10 hours a day service specific to the permanent washroom on Main Street,” Gillingham said, adding those partners could include community organizations.

“I’m going to look at the options with my EPC colleagues to talk about what could be the best way. I think that’s been an important service provided to residents in the area.”

24/7 hours too expensive for this year: mayor

Amoowigamig, which the latest city report says is Ojibway for “public washroom,” has been visited more than 20,000 times since opening last June.

It was a dream of homeless advocates for years, and opened with peer support staff on site during its operating hours of 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week.

The new city report also recommends putting off the idea of possibly running the Main Street washroom 24 hours a day until the city’s 2024-2027 multi-year budget process. 

It estimates that change would cost at least $650,000 a year — a number Gillingham said is too big to accommodate this late in the 2023 budget process.

The report recommends authorizing the city to maintain a sole source agreement with Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre to provide the site’s peer support services and to engage the centre in exploring options to reduce the cost of services, especially between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

It also recommends authorizing the city’s public service to explore a shared funding model with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to continue providing peer supports at Amoowigamig.